No more tax-free online sales?
A panel of leaders studying Florida's tax system took two small but significant steps Friday. The group agreed to file bills for more detailed debate and study that would (a) require a systematic review of sales tax exemptions and (b) include Florida among states that have joined forces to support the taxation of goods sold over the Internet at the same rate as similar products sold in stores.
Both decisions were made by the Taxation & Budget Reform Commission's Finance & Taxation Committee, chaired by Gulf Power CEO Susan Story. (Discussing the issues, L-R, are Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation and Brian Yablonski of The St. Joe Co.) The larger 25-member commission can recommend changes in law to the Legislature or place proposed constitutional amendments on the 2008 ballot.
Forcing consumers to pay sales tax on purchases made from online stores clearly had stronger support than scrutinizing or eliminating sales tax exemptions.
Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation and telecommunications consultant Julia Johnson argued forcefully that the time is long overdue for Florida to tax Internet sales. They estimated that the revenue loss to the state in 2008 will be $2.35-billion, and that allowing online merchants to avoid collecting sales tax puts shopping-mall retailers at a competitive disadvantage.